On January 1, 1863, President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation which freed more than three million enslaved people in the United States, mostly in the Confederate states. It took another two and a half years and the surrender of the Confederate army before it became a reality for the enslaved people in Texas. On June 19th, 1865, Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, TX, secured the state and informed them that they were free.
June 19th has come to symbolize a day of freedom and unity. It is a day to reflect on our past with honesty and hope for tomorrow. Although the U.S. celebrates July 4th as its Independence Day, the reality is that the entire nation was not free at that time. Slavery and the laws that allowed African Americans to be abused were evil practices. Our nation is still haunted by that time as there are remnants of these injustices which still plague cities throughout our country.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke about letting freedom ring. Yet we still have police shootings of unarmed African American men, unequal applications of justice and disparities in housing and education. Juneteenth is a day to remember that the rights of all must be defended. That social and economic justice and access to voting applies to all.
In 2021, President Biden officially recognized June 19th as a federal holiday codifying its importance in American history. Juneteenth now stands shoulder-to-shoulder with other federal holidays. No doubt we will see the importance of this day reflected in more and more bargaining agreements going forward.
The UAW supports diversity and inclusion and continues to represent all people. We believe that liberty and justice is for all. That was our mission when our union was founded, and it remains so today. I encourage you to find a local activity to support Juneteenth.
“Juneteenth Plaque” by William C Teller is licensed under CC BY 2.0.
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